Faith and Quaker Witness
Let your life speak
As Friends, we lay upon ourselves the responsibility to live by the Spirit of Love and Truth in each of us. This Spirit can direct every aspect of our lives if we open ourselves to it. It can enable us to reach out to the same Spirit in others. Thus Friends strive to live lives that embody the leadings of the Spirit.
Thus it is our experience that God can and will call upon any one of us to bear witness in the world in special ways, that occasionally some specific task for bettering the world might be laid upon us. We call such a task a "leading." Leadings can actually be about any aspect of life, but sometimes they are witness leadings, meaning that we feel called to work toward peace, social or racial justice, care for the earth, voluntary service, or some action intended to minister to those who suffer, to advocate on behalf of the oppressed, to protect the unprotected, and to right wrongs, where possible.
Out of our experience of these leadings, and very early on, Friends felt led into a number of truths that have kept their power for us, even though they have never stopped evolving as the centuries passed; we feel that God has revealed to us new truths over the centuries, as one of the blessings of continuing revelation. We call our historically sustained truths about right action in the world our "testimonies."
The most commonly held testimonies are the following:
- Earthcare—protecting and restoring the earth systems that sustain life on earth.
- Community—living in peaceful fellowship and protecting the health and integrity of all communities.
- Death penalty and torture—working to end both practices in the United States and elsewhere.
- Economic justice—working to ensure the economic security of everyone.
- Equality and social justice—working to end racism and prejudice in our own communities and in the wider society.
- Integrity—living outwardly as the light within our conscience guides us; truth and honesty in all things.
- Peace and nonviolence—working to take away the occasion for all wars and to reconcile differences without violence.
- Prison reform and solitary confinement—working to end mass incarceration, provide spiritual and other forms of support for incarcerated persons, and to end solitary confinement, which we consider a form of torture.
- Right sharing of world resources—reducing the demand for resources at home and helping others gain access to basic resources for themselves.
- Simplicity—seeking to live as simply as possible.
Click the following links to go to sections in our book of Faith and Practice on some testimonies as fruits of the Spirit and on some specific witness testimonies.
Click the following to go to the Testimonies section on the website of Friends General Conference.
Advices and Queries
Finally, while the Religious Society of Friends does not impose laws or rules for conduct upon its members, we do have what we call Advices and Queries. Advices are suggestions for consideration regarding various aspects of both personal and meeting life. Queries are questions that Friends and their meetings may use to examine their lives in the light of Truth.
The Practice of Quaker Witness
New York Yearly Meeting organizes its social witness life in two ways:
- through yearly meeting committees in the Witness section, and
- through yearly meeting support of individual Friends with witness leadings.
View the list of committees in the Witness section.
The Witness committees carry the concerns raised by the members of the committee or the concerns taken up by the committee in collective discernment.
In the traditional practice of Quaker ministry, a Friend who feels led to pursue any leading, including a witness leading, brings their concern to their local meeting for discernment and support. By "discernment," we mean help in determining whether the leading is of God and help in gaining clarity about God's intention, what the Friend is called to do, and how the meeting can support the work.
If it seems appropriate, the meeting may recommend the Friend and her or his leading to their regional meeting, where the regional meeting may recommend the leading to the yearly meeting, especially if the leading takes the Friend outside their local geographical area or requires resources beyond the more local meetings' capabilities.
Thus, New York Yearly Meeting at times takes under its care the leadings of individuals engaged in witness work.
Additionally, individual Friends may seek support from one of the yearly meeting's funds for witness ministry, applying through their local meeting. These funds include the Witness Activities Fund and the World Ministries Fund.